American Poetry

There’s No Salvation in Elsewhere

‘If nothing’s here, nothing’s there’, writes poet Stephen Dunn about the instinct to believe that happiness is a place other than where we are, over the horizon, up in the sky, on the streets of a foreign city. If you are expecting to find salvation there, he says, all you’ll find are reflections of the same emptiness you left at home. The best reason to travel? Joy – when the idea of salvation is the luggage that we leave behind. This poem comes from Dunn’s 1984 collection, ‘Not Dancing‘.

Tangier

There’s no salvation in elsewhere;
forget the horizon, the seductive sky.
If nothing’s here, nothing’s there.

I know. Once I escaped to Tangier,
took the same face, the same lie.
There’s no salvation in elsewhere

when elsewhere has empty rooms, mirrors.
Everywhere: the capital I.
If nothing’s here, nothing’s there

unless, of course, your motive’s secure;
not therapy, but joy,
salvation an idea left behind, elsewhere,

like overweight baggage or yesteryear.
The fundamental things apply.
If nothing’s here, nothing’s there –

I brought with me my own imperfect air.
The streets were noise. The heart dry.
There was no salvation elsewhere.
I came with nothing, found nothing there.

Stephen Dunn
From: Not Dancing

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